Friday, September 2, 2011

libertines, and patience

The essay, as a literary form, resembles the lyric, in so far as it is moulded by some central mood—whimsical, serious, or satirical. Give the mood, and the essay, from the first sentence to the last, grows around it as the cocoon grows around the silkworm. The essay-writer is a chartered libertine, and a law unto himself. A quick ear and eye, an ability to discern the infinite suggestiveness of common things, a brooding meditative spirit, are all that the essayist requires to start business with.  (Alexander Smith) 


Noun: A person, esp. a man, who behaves without moral principles.
Adjective: Characterized by a disregard of morality.

Call me a libertine all you want, as long as you call me an essayist first. Not that I am without moral principles or have a disregard of morality, (I hope in reality I am quite the opposite of a libertine) but that I disagree with you, Alexander Smith, as to that specific definition of an essayist. That said, I think essayists try to step back from the world a bit to try and see how everything connects, so the tendency to stand apart could lend itself to being a law unto himself. Interesting thought, and I'd love to grapple with that idea in my head for awhile. 

So I want to start business being an essayist, as Alexander Smith says. I think it takes practice to have a quick ear and eye, and to discern the infinite suggestiveness of common things. You have to "stop and smell the roses" as the old cliche entreats. However, I don't completely buy the validity of this particular cliche. "Smelling the roses" is insufficient because most of the time you can smell roses by simply walking by them; you usually don't have to break you stride to enjoy their aroma. Truly discerning the infinite suggestiveness of common things requires more commitment than deep inhalation. Annie Dillard in Pilgrim at Tinker Creek essays about staying in one position, unmoving, for hours in order to catch a glimpse of a shy animal (the name of the actual animal escapes me at the moment). Now that is commitment. It takes patience. 

I've never been the most patient person, but I guess it depends on the situation. I'm definitely a more patient driver than I used to be--I used to get so annoyed at people who cut me off or drive too slowly, then one day I cut someone off and realized suddenly that the driver I cut off was probably cursing my name for my apparent lack of courtesy. I had become the kind of person I get annoyed at. So I decided to be more patient towards other drivers because I hoped they would also give me the benefit of a doubt when I do stupid things. (Notice that I didn't resolve to be a perfect driver so I could then look down my nose at the rest of the fools on the road with less-than-perfect driving skills. I found it easier to forgive others' driving faults, and keep my own intact.)

Also, I was so nervous to start teaching my Writing 150 class that after the slight awkwardness of the first day, I hurriedly decided that I was doomed to being forever awkward teacher who is always terrified of her students. Then the second day of teaching came along and I realized that I really will enjoy this, and if I am awkward then I'll embrace it and allow myself to have faults. Slight awkwardness in a teacher is not always a bad thing. Some of my favorite professors have been slightly awkward in one way or another. Being completely "normal" is uninteresting and dull, anyway. (Not to mention the fact that it's impossible to even define what "normal" is.) So my conclusion is that I should be a more patient person and not freak out. And not merely smell the roses but stand completely still for hours in order to catch a glimpse of a small animal.

By the way, I can already tell that I'm going to have a hard time not neglecting my other classes in favor of my essaying class. But that's why I'm here, so shouldn't that give me license to care about some things more than others?  

1 comment:

Curt and Ronda said...

You will probably neglect your other classes until you get to the next fairy tale class, then neglect everything else until you get to the essay class and on and on...
By the way, it isn't 'awkward' is 'unique'! And THAT is YOU!